First 5 Association CA ELQIS Implementation Recommendations
In March, the First 5 Association of California submitted a report entitled Quality Improvement
Systems: Lessons Learned to the CA ELQIS Advisory Committee. The purpose of this report was
to share at the state level the very significant experience of county First 5 commissions in
designing systems to support quality early care and education in California.
County First 5 commissions have been deeply involved in efforts to improve the quality of ECE
programs in their jurisdictions for much of the past decade. As funders, they have had to
evaluate which of their investments have been most effective, prioritize strategies, work with a
wide variety of ECE providers in diverse communities, and grapple with many of the same
issues that have confronted the CA ELQIS Advisory Committee during its deliberations.
As the CA ELQIS Committee nears a very significant milestone – the writing of its report to the
Legislature outlining recommendations for design, financing, and implementation of a
statewide quality improvement system – the First 5 Association recommends a process that
could move the process forward, even in light of the current state budget crisis, by building
upon local First 5 investments.
Background on County First 5 QIS Efforts
Twenty-one county First 5 commissions are currently investing in local QIS efforts, usually as
the lead agency and primary (if not sole) funder. The following facts from a recent survey of
county commissions suggest the reach of their local funding:
In 2008-2009, commissions invested nearly $160 million in quality enhancement efforts
(including improving facilities, increasing the per-child reimbursement, providing
additional services including developmental screenings, funding classroom materials
and supplies, and supporting workforce development).
In the last fiscal year alone, over twenty-six thousand children were served in county
commission-funded preschool programs.
Over thirty-six thousand unduplicated, high quality preschool spaces have been funded
by county First 5 commissions since 2001. They are in new programs meet or exceed
Head Start standards for comprehensive early care and education programs.
Specifically, these investments address both programmatic and infrastructural needs. At the
program level, county First 5 commissions are investing in:
Increased per-child reimbursements
Higher standards for teacher‐child ratio and group size than licensing requires
Coordination of kindergarten transition program
Reviewing and supporting use of a standard curriculum
Quality grants for participating programs
Additional supports for children with special needs
Additional supports for English Language Learners
Workforce training and supports – including tracking and incentivizing degree
Parent engagement training and supports
County First 5 commissions are also investing in data, evaluation and infrastructure through:
Data systems linking preschools and K-12
Environmental assessments (e.g. ECERS)
Teacher-child interaction assessments (e.g. CLASS)
Program administration evaluation (e.g. PAS)
Developmental assessments – ASQ
Kindergarten readiness observational assessments
To ensure that preschool and other ECE investments lead to measureable improvements in
program quality, teacher effectiveness, and child outcomes, First 5 commissions have focused
on integrating the components of quality improvement and incorporating community-based
services into a larger system of care. Moreover, they have tracked, and evaluated their
investments to ensure cost effectiveness.
County First 5 commissions are now seeing results of this comprehensive approach. While
most evaluation data to date has focused on particular aspects of the QIS (workforce, program
quality, facilities), two recent studies demonstrate that the integration of these components
into fully-developed models is having a real impact on child outcomes.
In Los Angeles, researchers using a kindergarten readiness measure to assess LAUP
preschoolers documented a significant increase in school readiness for children in LAUP
classrooms. The study showed that the percentage of children who demonstrated near-
proficiency across all building blocks increased from 22 percent in the fall of 2008 to 72
percent in the spring of 2009.
In San Francisco, the 2008 RAND report on California’s preschool quality reported that
San Francisco’s PFA classrooms outperform national scores by an average of 25%.
In developing a statewide implementation plan, the following key lessons from the county
commission are instructive:
1. QIS costs are both one-time and on-going. County First 5 commissions have
underwritten tool development, assessment training, and annual assessments.
2. Data systems are critical to success. County First 5 commissions have developed data
systems that link to state-level, county-level, and program-level systems.
3. Without statewide implementation, local incentives continue to be necessary. County
First 5 commissions provide teacher incentives, additional reimbursements, and other
4. Partnerships among multiple local agencies are essential to meeting the needs of
children in early care settings.
The significant local investments that county First 5 commissions have made reflect
partnerships forged over years of dialogue and risk-taking. Because this local experience is in
close alignment with the CA ELQIS recommendations, it presents an opportunity to
demonstrate the value of the recommendations – even when statewide implementation is
unlikely – and to build upon the millions already invested in counties throughout the state.
The First 5 Association of California recognizes the legitimacy of implementing statewide
standards within a Quality Improvement System (e.g. a five-tiered rating system with consistent
rating factors so that a rating means the same thing statewide). At the same time, county
commissions have demonstrated the value of local implementation, especially where state
resources are insufficient and local partnerships are critical to success.
The First 5 Association therefore encourages the CA ELQIS Advisory Committee to consider a
delivery design based on “county option.” County First 5 commissions and other entities that
can bring financial resources, expertise, and local connections could partner with the state to
deliver one or more segments of the QIS system. While county First 5 commissions would be
prime candidates to lead a “county option,” other local government and private entities with
resources could also serve in that role. Examples of components of the QIS that currently exist
at the local level and are in alignment with draft CA ELQIS recommendations include (but may
not be limited to):
Implementing the rating system, using the statewide rating design, possibly including
collection of consistent data elements and uploading to a state computer.
Implementation of the training and technical assistance portion of QIS.
Comprehensive child-teacher and environmental assessments.
In addition, where implementation is through this “county option,” the state could draw on
evaluation efforts already underway. Local evaluation (linked to statewide efforts) in the early
years could greatly enhance the information available to policy makers, legislators and others
about the benefits of comprehensive quality efforts.
Inclusion of the “county option” could be the basis for a fuller and more expedient pilot testing
of the system than might otherwise be possible. Given the limited funding available for any
pilot test of the CA ELQIS recommendations, this design has the potential to allow a larger pilot,
in turn providing increased information for the continued design and development of the
Because of SB 1629 and the work of the CA ELQIS Advisory Committee, early education in
California has the potential to make a huge leap forward, benefiting today’s children and
tomorrow’s workforce. But with insufficient funding to support widespread implementation,
the CA ELQIS recommendations risk reaching only a relative handful of children or, worse,
remaining “on the shelf” and out of view of future Legislatures. The First 5 Association supports
efforts to partner with County First 5 Commissions to extend ECE quality to programs and
children across California.